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Sarasota Wednesday, May. 8, 2013 4 years ago

Commission picks new attorney

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Maggie Mooney-Portale
Age: 37
Family: Husband, Chris; a 22-month-old daughter, Payton Rose
Residence: Panther Ridge in East Manatee
Hometown: Miami
Years Practicing Law: 12 years
College: Florida State University and University of Florida
Hobbies: Chasing after her toddler and running half-marathons.

A new town attorney will sit at the far right of the Longboat Key Town Commission dais for the first time in 23 years.

At its Monday, May 6, regular meeting, the Longboat Key Town Commission selected Maggie D. Mooney-Portale, of Sarasota-based Hankin, Persson, McClenathen, Cohen & Darnell, as its new town attorney.

The commission chose Portale over Robert K. Robinson, of Sarasota-based Nelson Hesse, by a 6-1 vote. Commissioner Pat Zunz did not vote in favor of the nomination. Zunz had suggested at a previous meeting that the commission perform another search for additional candidates.

The majority of the commission, though, picked Portale, citing both her experience and the institutional knowledge that comes with hiring an attorney from the same firm as outgoing attorney Dave Persson.

“The tipping point for me is still having access to the knowledge that comes with selecting an attorney from the law firm where our attorney of 23 years still works,” said Mayor Jim Brown.

Brown cited the long list of recent changes at Town Hall to prove his point. The town has undergone changes in top positions that include the town manager, police chief, planning director and finance director.

“We’ve been through a lot lately, and having a town attorney who can tap into that knowledge when needed is comforting,” Brown said.

When asked for his opinion, Town Manager Dave Bullock called both Robinson and Portale “highly competent.”

Bullock worked with Robinson during his days in Sarasota County government, but said the institutional knowledge that comes with Portale’s hire “tipped the scales” for him.

“There is advantage and disadvantage to institutional knowledge because not having it might allow a fresh perspective,” Bullock said. “But, I can tell you I have called on Dave Persson’s knowledge of this Key more than any other staff member in the last year-and-a-half.”

Portale’s practice focuses on governmental law, special taxing districts, land use, administrative law and litigation.

She serves as general and special counsel for special districts, including the Southern Manatee, North River and Parrish fire districts. Portale has also worked with the Manatee County Port Authority, helping with litigation concerning a dredging project at Port Manatee.

Portale thanked commissioners for the appointment and shook their hands after the meeting.

“I’m honored to be selected and look forward to serving the town of Longboat Key,” Portale said Tuesday morning. “It’s a very interesting community that’s done a great job of dealing with unique costal issues.”
In December, Persson informed commissioners he was resigning.

Persson was named the new attorney for the city of Venice Jan. 22.

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